Why Sometimes I’m Hoping the Plane’s Wi-Fi is Broken

March 5, 2017

Don't get me wrong, the B2B Beat thinks Internet access on a jetliner is an amazing achievement, a triumph of science and technology. It’s astonishing that we have wi-fi at 32,000 feet.

Still, the capability to answer email in the sky fills me with nostalgia for a simpler time — way back two or three years ago. That was when a content marketer had no choice but to unplug from email for a few hours on a cross-country flight. It was freeing to not have to reply instantaneously to email, to avoid Tweeting every few minutes, and to be without access to our content management system for a few hours.

Back then, a plane ticket promised a respite and time for a content marketer to focus on the big picture part of the job. That promise is still possible — provided that the wi-fi is down, it’s painfully slow, or, if the wi-fi is up and running, you have the discipline to ignore the siren call of your email. Here are five important activities content marketers can do while on a plane without wi-fi:

Write.

As a content marketer with a variety of responsibilities — posting, distributing, and promoting content — it can be difficult to find long, uninterrupted periods in which to actually write long-form content. But on a cross-country flight, you can type into your laptop or even use a pen to scrawl in a notebook. I am, in fact, starting this post on an Airbus A320 as it ascends from a Chicago O’Hare runway en route to San Francisco.

Think.

Sometimes, content marketers can get caught on the hamster wheel of producing daily content. But a plane without wi-fi can deliver a short respite from email, Twitter, and the CMS. Momentarily freed of these necessary but time-consuming tasks, you can think about your long-term content strategy, or you can brainstorm blog post ideas, new ebook concepts, and video series. I came up with the initial idea for this blog post somewhere over the Rocky Mountains on a plane with no Internet service.

Consume.

The best content marketers I know are inveterate readers and consumers of stories. They read everything from books to magazines to industry blogs. It’s rare that a good writer isn’t a voracious reader. By paying close attention to how other writers put words together, readers can improve their own writing style. And, as video becomes a more prominent way for content marketers to tell stories, watching an episode of “Peaky Blinders” or “Friday Night Lights” can illuminate how to frame and light a shot and how to tell a story visually. So, content marketers, don’t let anyone tell you that reading a book or watching a show isn’t part of the job. Purposefully striving to understand how others tell stories will ultimately make ours better, too.

Meet.

As a rule, I respect the privacy of my fellow travelers and avoid chatting on airplanes. At the same time, however, I have to admit that I’ve had some rewarding conversations in the air. In 2012, I sat next a financial attorney who, like me, is both a political junkie and a college football fanatic. We still stay in touch to discuss our common obsessions. More recently, I sat next to a former NFL player, who sadly had the middle seat on a flight back from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. We talked for much of the flight about his goals for getting into business and have since emailed back and forth on LinkedIn. I gave his daughters one of my children's books, and he graciously agreed to let my daughter interview him for her junior-year project on concussions in professional football.  

Rest.

Content marketing can be hard work. Naps at your desk are not as accepted as maybe they should be, but on a plane, you can nod off with impunity. And then when you wake up five or six miles above the earth’s surface, you can attack your work with a renewed, refreshed outlook. Who knows — you might even awake with a big new content idea you just dreamed up. 

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